TRAI consultation paper on privacy and security of data in telecom sector

mobile-internet-charge-in-indiaTRAI consultation paper released on August 9 focused on privacy, security and ownership of the data in the telecom sector.

TRAI aims to bring both telecom operators such as Bharti Airtel, BSNL, Reliance Jio, among others and OTT companies such as Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, among others under the purview of data security guidelines.

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TRAI said the aim of the consultation paper is to identify the issues pertaining to data protection in relation to the delivery of digital services. This includes the provision of telecom and Internet services by telecom and Internet service providers (TSPs) as well the other devices, networks and applications that connect with users through the services offered by TSPs and collect and control user data in that process.

Reports indicate that 90 percent of the data in the world has been created in the last two years alone with new data being added to this pool at the rate of approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. Data collection, storage and analytics have become widely used tools that allow businesses to monetise their products and services and gain a competitive advantage over other providers.

TRAI pointed out that the growth in the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) devices also raises concerns about the nature and extent of data being collected by these devices, the purpose for which it can be used and the security of these devices.

There were 4,149 breaches reported during 2016 exposing over 4.2 billion records. The types of data exposed through these incidents include email addresses (42.6 percent); passwords (38.1 percent); names and usernames (35.1 and 21.6 percent, respectively); and addresses (20.4 percent).

Issues for consultation

Are the data protection requirements currently applicable to all the players in the eco-system in India sufficient to protect the interests of telecom subscribers? What are the additional measures, if any, that need to be considered in this regard?

In light of recent advances in technology, what changes, if any, are recommended to the definition of personal data? Should the User’s consent be taken before sharing his/her personal data for commercial purposes? What are the measures that should be considered in order to empower users to own and take control of his/her personal data? In particular, what are the new capabilities that must be granted to consumers over the use of their Personal data?

What should be the Rights and Responsibilities of the Data Controllers? Can the Rights of Data Controller supersede the Rights of an Individual over his/her Personal Data? Suggest a mechanism for regulating and governing the Data Controllers.

Given the fears related to abuse of this data, is it advisable to create a technology enabled architecture to audit the use of personal data, and associated consent? Will an audit-based mechanism provide sufficient visibility for the government or its authorized authority to prevent harm? Can the industry create a sufficiently capable workforce of auditors who can take on these responsibilities?

What, if any, are the measures that must be taken to encourage the creation of new data based businesses consistent with the overall framework of data protection?

Should government or its authorized authority setup a data sandbox, which allows the regulated companies to create anonymized data sets which can be used for the development of newer services?

How can the government or its authorized authority setup a technology solution that can assist it in monitoring the ecosystem for compliance? What are the attributes of such a solution that allow the regulations to keep pace with a changing technology ecosystem?

What are the measures that should be considered in order to strengthen and preserve the safety and security of telecommunications infrastructure and the digital ecosystem as a whole?

What are the key issues of data protection pertaining to the collection and use of data by various other stakeholders in the digital ecosystem, including content and application service providers, device manufacturers, operating systems, browsers, etc? What mechanisms need to be put in place in order to address these issues?

Is there a need for bringing about greater parity in the data protection norms applicable to TSPs and other communication service providers offering comparable services (such as Internet based voice and messaging services). What are the various options that may be considered in this regard?

What should be the legitimate exceptions to the data protection requirements imposed on TSPs and other providers in the digital ecosystem and how should these be designed? In particular, what are the checks and balances that need to be considered in the context of lawful surveillance and law enforcement requirements?

What are the measures that can be considered in order to address the potential issues arising from cross border flow of information and jurisdictional challenges in the digital ecosystem?